Greg Truckenmiller, a longtime Fulton-Montgomery Community College administrator who has led the college through the pandemic as acting president, was formally appointed to the permanent president position this past week.
Truckenmiller relocated from his native Iowa in 2000 to take a job as the college’s first director of institutional research, a job focused on analyzing data in projecting enrollments, planning for budgets and complying with state and federal mandates, and he has served in numerous roles over the past two decades at the college. After the school’s two academic deans left around the same time, he served as an interim filling both positions; he worked as the dean of arts and sciences before becoming the college’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, a role he held for 10 years. After former college President Dustin Swanger retired in 2019 after more than a decade in the position, Truckenmiller took over as acting president. A few months later, the college was plunged into a global pandemic.
But it’s the next two decades Truckenmiller will be focused on now that the board of trustees dropped the “acting” from his title, working to ensure the long-term viability of a critical community institution battered by years of falling enrollment and budget cuts.
“We are in the middle of really needing to reset and redefine ourselves coming out of the pandemic and how do we reverse the trends we have seen in terms of declining enrollment,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “We don’t need rapid growth, we need slow, steady growth.”
Truckenmiller, noting the college will soon set out on developing a new multi-year strategic plan, said the school should build on its development of remote and hybrid learning options during the pandemic to offer students more flexibility in the future. He said students should be able to opt to take classes from home when needed or catch up on a lecture at a different time of day. Giving students more scheduling flexibility, he said, helps make the pitch that a college program can fit their life. He said the college will also shift some of its student recruitment efforts to older students not coming straight out of high school, seeking to make the case that working people can advance their career prospects while maintaining a job and family responsibilities.
“We are giving you options that don’t interfere with a full-time job,” he said, noting other barriers to enrollment like childcare needs that could be mitigated with more scheduling options “We are trying to meet the student where they are, the place they are in their life.”
He also emphasized the importance of partnering with other community colleges in the region to share services and staff, as well as to expand program offerings for students. He said the college was working to partner with SUNY Schenectady to grow apprenticeship opportunities for FMCC students, for example.
“If we can pull our resources and share those services, it makes us as a group a healthier unit,” he said. “We are an organization that has to be all things to all people, and we can’t always afford to do that.”
Those partnerships should also expand to local businesses, he said. He highlighted the college’s technical programs and partnerships with companies like GlobalFoundaries, and he also talked about growing the college’s focus on renewable energy and other jobs of the future, pointing to the numerous solar farms that have cropped up across Fulton and Montgomery counties.
“We are a community college and a community partner,” he said. “I just can’t imagine a region without a community college.”
The challenges are still great: FMCC lost about a third of its enrollment and staff over the past decade, and the pandemic further deepened the trend. In an interview just a few weeks ago, Truckenmiller said “if nothing changes” in the college’s fiscal and enrollment trajectory, the college may be unable to sustain itself. But on Wednesday he said he was confident that something had changed after federal stimulus and the state budget offered colleges like FMCC more financial aid to recover from the impacts of the pandemic – financial and academic.
“That really allows us to breathe and do the reset we need to do,” he said of the recent developments. “Our feet are under us. We got that thing that needs to change to really be stable for the next couple of years. It was a much-needed life preserver for us.”
He said some of the federal aid will go into expanding classroom technology to enable virtual classes and more student flexibility; other parts of the federal aid will effectively bolster the college’s budget in the short-term by offsetting revenue the college lost out on as a result of the pandemic.
Truckenmiller – who lives in Johnstown with his wife Rachel and their three sons, two of who are current FMCC students – said the community college is an affordable option regardless of how much money someone has as he outlined the school’s role as a bridge to new educational and professional opportunities for people in the region.
“The less money that you have the more money there is out there for you for higher education,” he said. “We are an entry point for many, many students into higher education.”